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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Telenor Says VimpelCom Can Expand

LONDON -- Telenor, the Nordic region's biggest phone company by revenue, supports plans by VimpelCom to expand abroad as long as it's done separately from Altimo, its other shareholder.

"We will not support a strategy that is based on buying assets from Altimo where they go in and create a corporate conflict and then ask VimpelCom to buy them afterward," Kjell Morten Johnsen, Telenor's head in Russia, said in London on Monday during the sidelines of the Russian Economic Forum.

Telenor is in a legal battle with Altimo over VimpelCom's expansion in Ukraine, where they co-own the country's biggest wireless operator. Telenor holds 26.6 percent in VimpelCom, and Altimo, the telecommunications arm of Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group, owns 42.4 percent of the company.

Russian mobile phone companies, including VimpelCom, have more than 155 million subscribers, or 13 million more than the country's population, and are looking at new markets to sustain growth. VimpelCom CEO Alexander Izosimov said on April 12 that the company might buy a company in Asia or the Middle East through a private deal or in a group with an investor.

Johnsen said VimpelCom's expansion beyond former Soviet states would be beneficial for Telenor and that it would not put any geographical limits on its plans.

"For us it creates opportunities," Johnsen said. "I am pretty sure there are several countries out there that will be difficult to reach for a Norwegian-based company. It will be easier to reach for a Moscow-based company, then we will have 30 percent of that coming into our sphere."